Excel When You Must, But Do Not Excel the World

“Do not seek too much fame, but do not seek obscurity.
Be proud, but do not remind the world of your deeds.
Excel when you must, but do not excel the world.
Many heroes are not yet born,
Many have already died;
To be alive to hear this song is a victory.”

— A West African Song

Thirteen years ago, a blessed brother traveler read this aloud in a public setting and dedicated the gift of this poem to me.  It was a time of difficult transition, and his great heart saw and felt my great need for new Grounding.   Another precious friend framed a beautiful version and gave it to me upon my ordination that year.  It has provided a kind of measuring stick, mantra, and mirror-question many times since.

The Course in Miracles teaches about the danger of special attachments and special relationships.  In my coaching and teaching, I often draw upon my own journey of recovery from workaholism (in which illusions and attachments to excellence abound).  I have often found capacity to let go of outward achievements wherein lay temptation to “excel the world” or “remind the world of my deeds.”  I faith, I am pressing on for a different prize: “to be alive to hear this song” and to be Christ’s presence in it.

Today, I draw upon this Life Text as I honor my grandmother, Elizabeth Schrock, who died Monday.   She embodied victory in her Christian life as she lived out humility and perseverance while receiving no great outward honor.  She is not famous, yet she is a hero. My hero.  And her life is a model of victory.

I am grateful for so many lessons along life’s path, and for the example of Jesus Christ through whom we see “the express image of God.”  Thank you so very much, Grandma Schrock, for the gift of your life.


‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ — from a parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:23.



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